Henson Robinson was a tinner by trade. This Springfield, Ill. resident started out producing cups and other tinware for the Union forces during the Civil War.

Later, the company began making its own stoves and furnaces, and in 1936 began to concentrate on hvac, sheet metal and roofing. Today, the company is so successful that it won the Carrier Distinguished Dealer Award.

This 139-year-old company has grown to $6.3 million in hvac sales (1999 figures) and has 160 employees, about 35 of them in hvac, 14 service vehicles. Its residential mix is about 75% add-on or replacement, and about 25% residential new construction. Henson Robinson hopes to be at $10 million in annual hvac sales within two years. Next year, it will move into a new $1.5 million, 35,000-sq.-ft. facility.

In 1991, the company's employees formed an ESOP and now own 93% of the company, according to executive vice president Steve Etheridge.